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Muji Unveils Tiny, Pre-Fabricated “Huts” at Tokyo Design Week

Following the release of their “Vertical House”, a prefabricated home designed for the tight, urban spaces of Japan, Japanese design brand Muji has showcased another set of ready-made habitats, this time a series of three minimalist “huts” at varying scales. Each hut, designed by a different designer, is intended as a retreat from urban activity and can be set-up in rural terrains.

The huts each explore a different material: an aluminum hut by Konstantin Grcic, a cork hut by Jasper Morrison,  and a wooden hut by Naoto Fukasawa.

Prefabrication's Second Coming: Why Now?

nARCHITECTS' proposal for prefabricated "micro apartments" in New York. Image © nARCHITECTS / NYC Mayor's Office
nARCHITECTS' proposal for prefabricated "micro apartments" in New York. Image © nARCHITECTS / NYC Mayor's Office

Prefabrication is not a new idea for architects. It was a staple of the post-war modernist ideal, a great dream that precise modern structures would be created in clean factories and then shipped to site. However, the realities of post-war prefab were far from this ideal; buildings were often poorly designed or poorly constructed, and by the end of the century prefabrication was merely a footnote in the catalog of construction methods. In the 21st century though, prefabrication is experiencing a resurgence. In this article originally published on Autodesk’s Line//Shape//Space publication as "Future of Construction: Your Next Building Won’t Be Built—It Will Be Manufactured," Autodesk's Phil Bernstein looks at the current wave of prefabrication, and answers the question: why now?

Imagine a 57-story tower built in just 19 days.

That’s what China’s Broad Sustainable Building (BSB) company just did. Constructed at a pace of three stories per day, the tower includes 800 apartments, 19 atriums, and office space for 4,000 people.

And BSB isn’t the only one with this type of ambitious plan for the future of construction. The industry is entering the age of the mass-manufactured building. Prefabrication is growing up, reaching a new level of maturity that is now going to change the industry and define new categories of building. Check the trailer-park stereotype at the door.

3 Experimental Homes Address Hyper-Urbanization in Africa

By the year 2025, the urban population in Sub-Saharan Africa is predicated to increase by almost 70% -- a rapid urbanization that will inevitably affect the construction sector. 

To address this expected growth and to help lay the foundations for a sustainable urban and social development, students from the Institute of Experimental Architecture at Bauhaus-Universität Weimar and EiABC (Ethiopian Institute of Architecture Building Construction and City Development) worked together to build three residential prototypes at a 1:1 scale for Addis Ababa: the capital of Ethiopia and the heart of hyper-urbanization. See all of the project details, below. 

Courtesy of Bauhaus Experimental Building Courtesy of Bauhaus Experimental Building Courtesy of Bauhaus Experimental Building Courtesy of Bauhaus Experimental Building

penda to Build Modular, Customizable Housing Tower in India

© penda
© penda

penda has released plans for their first project in India. Based on a modular building system, the Pooja Crafted Homes will allow residents of Vijayawada to design their own high-rise apartment by selecting prefabricated modules from a catalogue that will then be inserted into the tower's frame. 

"In an age of mass-production and a certain conformism in the building industry, we try to use modern construction techniques to bring back a level of individualism and flexibility for the inhabitants of a highrise. A kind of individualism one would have in building his own house," says penda. 

This 3D Printed Home was "Built" in Less than 3 Hours

Chinese company ZhuoDa has assembled a two-story home in record speed; the modular house, comprised of six 3D printed modules, was assembled on-site in less than three hours. Likened to LEGO, the prefabricated home was 90 percent built off-site before its components were shipped to its permanent location. As Inhabitat reports, the home only took about 10 days to complete from start to finish.

BBC Profiles Zhang Yue: The Man Who Plans to Build the World’s Tallest Building in 7 Months

BBC News has published a profile on the new projects and ambitions of Broad Sustainable Building’s Zhang Yue. A few months ago, Yue became known as the man behind Mini Sky City, a 57-story building that went up in 19 days. Now, Yue wants to further his idea of modular construction to build Sky City, which will be the world’s tallest skyscraper, stretching ten meters taller than the 828 meter-tall Burj Khalifa in Dubai, and take only seven months to complete. In addition to being constructed from prefabricated parts, Sky City will be sustainable and built from steel to help prevent earthquake damage. Construction is expected to begin on the skyscraper in early 2016. Read more about Yue, his company, and their projects in the BBC News article.

Chinese Company Builds 57-Story Skyscraper in 19 Days

“Three floors in a day is China’s new normal,” says a representative for this 57-floor skyscraper that was built in just 19 days. Known as the “Mini Sky City” tower in Changsha, the 180,000-square-meter mixed-use building was built in record speed with modular, “LEGO-like” blocks. The process also claimed to have required less materials and significantly reduced the amount of air pollution commonly caused by dusty construction sites. 

A time-lapse of the construction process, after the break.

Your Home by Mail: The Rise and Fall of Catalogue Housing

Housing is one of the most persistent challenges faced by the construction industry, and over the course of decades certain trends rise and fall, as entrepreneurial housing providers carve out new niches to provide for expanding populations and changing demographics. Originally published by BuzzBuzzHome as "The Rise and Fall of The Mail-Order House," this article explores the craze of so-called "catalogue homes" - flat-packed houses that were delivered by mail - which became popular in North America in the first decades of the 20th century.

The testimonials make it sound effortless: building your own house is no sweat.

In the front pages of a 1921 Sears Roebuck catalogue for mail-order homes, a resident of Traverse City, Michigan identified only by the pseudonym “I Did Not Hire Any Help” wrote to the company: “I am very well pleased with my Already Cut House bought off you. All the material went together nicely. In fact, I wish I had another house to put up this summer. I really enjoyed working on such a building, and I do not follow the carpenter trade either.” It’s estimated that more than 100,000 mail-order homes were built in the United States between 1908 and 1940. It was the IKEA of housing, but instead of spending an afternoon putting together a bookshelf, buyers would take on the formidable task of building a house. Or, more commonly, get a contractor to do it. Homebuyers would pick a design of their choice out of a mail-order catalogue and the materials – from the lumber frame boards to the paint to the nails and screws – would be shipped out to the closest railway station for pickup and construction.

Gordon Van-Tine homes (1926). Image Courtesy of Gordon Van-Tine’s ready-cut homes (1918). Image Courtesy of Honor bilt modern homes (1921). Image Courtesy of Sears, Roebuck & Co. (1938). Image Courtesy of

Arup and GXN Innovation's Biocomposite Facade Wins JEC Innovation Award

Arup and GXN Innovation have been awarded with the JEC Innovation Award 2015 in the construction category for their development of the world's first self-supporting biocomposite facade panel. Developed as part of the €7.7 million EU-funded BioBuild program, the design reduces the embodied energy of facade systems by 50% compared to traditional systems with no extra cost in construction.

The 4-by-2.3 meter panel is made from flax fabric and bio-derived resin. Intended primarily for commercial offices, the glazing unit features a parametrically-derived faceted design, and comes prefabricated ready for installation. The panel is also designed to be easy to disassemble, making it simple to recycle at the end of its life.

Tel Aviv Museum Of Art Examines The International Circulation Of Prefab Concrete Panels

Between 1945 and 1981 around 170 million prefabricated (prefab) residential units were constructed worldwide. Now, as part of a study undertaken by Pedro Alonso and Hugo Palmarola of the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile between 2012 and 2014, an exhibition at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art features 28 large concrete panel systems from between 1931 and 1981. In so doing, it explores a transnational circulation of these objects of construction, "weaving them into a historical collage of ambitions and short-lived enthusiasm for utopian dreams."

This show, curated by Meira Yagid-Haimovici, is an attempt to reveal "how architecture and urbanism was charged with historical, social, and political narratives, and how the modernist vision promoted the fusion of aesthetics and politics." The models, which are being exhibited as part of the Production Routes exhibition, seek to highlight the richness embodied in 'generic' architecture through the lens of prefab construction methods.

"A Kit of Parts": Mobile Classrooms by Studio Jantzen

In partnership with VS Furniture,  Los Angeles-based Studio Jantzen have released images and concept material of their reconceptualization of the mobile classroom

"A Kit of Parts" addresses what Studio Jantzen identifies as the four main shortcomings of mobile classrooms currently on the market: flexibility, sustainability, cost effectiveness, and creative construction. Read more about the project and view selected images after the break.

Courtesy of Studio Jantzen Courtesy of Studio Jantzen Courtesy of Studio Jantzen Courtesy of Studio Jantzen

Design Your Own Home With MUJI's Prefab Vertical House

Japanese design brand MUJI has taken a bold step into architectural territory. A few years after a collaboration with Kengo Kuma to design two prefab houses, the company has come forth with a Vertical House in Tokyo. Streamlined and efficient, the home accommodates all the demands of residential living within a small plot of land.

Interior images and more information, after the break.

Courtesy of MUJI Courtesy of MUJI Courtesy of MUJI Courtesy of MUJI

David Rockwell's Luxurious Pre-Fab Homes

Two weeks ago, David Rockwell took a step away from his usual work of interior and set design to present his foray into the prefab game - an adaptable 2,400 square-foot house called "Pinwheel." His design aims to challenge two assumptions about prefabrication: one, affordability and luxury are mutually exclusive and two, pre-fab's limited flexibility makes a cookie-cutter result inevitable. Rockwell says the project, a collaboration between himself and Fred Carl, founder of modular housing venture C3 Design, was inspired by his childhood in Mexico, where "outdoor space was part of the lifestyle." Check out the plan and more designs after the break.  

Disaster Relief Housing For The Next "Superstorm"

With hurricanes Sandy and Katrina etched into recent memory, the need for post-disaster relief housing is now. New York City and Garrison Architects have developed a modular, prefabricated housing system to relieve displaced citizens during the next "superstorm." At only 40' by 100' long, they can squeeze into the city's smallest corners -- all while having kitchen, bedroom, bathroom and storage spaces. The prototype is on display in Brooklyn - but you can see the entire design at the A/N Blog.  

Why It's Time to Give Up on Prefab

This article by Chris Knapp, the Director of Built-Environment Practice, originally appeared on Australian Design Review as "The End Of Prefabrication". Knapp calls for the end of prefabrication as a driver for design, pointing out its century-long failure to live up to its promise, as well as newer technology's ability to "mass produce difference".

Prefabrication – there is not another word in the current lexicon of architecture that more erroneously asserts positive change. For more than a century now, this industrial strategy of production applied to building has yielded both an unending source of optimism for architecture, and equally, a countless series of disappointments. This is a call for the end of prefabrication.

Read on after the break

Historic New York City House Seeks Permanent Home

After being relegated to storage facilities for much of its lifetime, proposals to relocate the Aluminaire House seem to be picking up steam. The project, which was the first all-metal house in the United States, originally stood as a symbol for architectural modernism in a rapidly urbanizing New York.

AD Classics: Ramot Polin / Zvi Hecker

Images from the exhibition: The Object of Zionism, at the SAM (Swiss Architecture Museum, Basel, 2011). Curators: Zvi Efrat and Hubertus Adam
Images from the exhibition: The Object of Zionism, at the SAM (Swiss Architecture Museum, Basel, 2011). Curators: Zvi Efrat and Hubertus Adam

The Ramot Polin neighborhood is a housing project designed by the Polish-born Israeli architect Zvi Hecker, commissioned by the Israeli government in the euphoric aftermath of the Six Day War. The project, which resembles a beehive, is an avant-garde architectural experiment on morphology as well as construction. Since being constructed in the late 1970s, the structure has undergone extensive alteration by its tenants, provoking a debate regarding the capacity of expressive architecture to account for authentic human needs.

By Adam Nathaniel Furman via Model via Images from the exhibition: The Object of Zionism, at the SAM (Swiss Architecture Museum, Basel, 2011). Curators: Zvi Efrat and Hubertus Adam By Adam Nathaniel Furman via

Construction Begins on NYC's First Prefab Steel and Concrete Residential Development

Prefabrication has long been heralded as a possible way to infill New York's vacant sites, however it is only in recent years that it has become a solid practical solution rather than an experimental concept. Riding the crest of the wave of new prefabricated housing is GLUCK+ (formerly Peter Gluck & Partners), in collaboration with developers Jeffrey Brown and Kimberly Frank. Together they have began construction on one of New York's first prefabricated steel and concrete residential buildings.

Read more about this and New York's recent wave of prefabricated buildings after the break...